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Digital Video Express, known under the brand name DIVX, was a video rental system marketed by electronics retailer Circuit City and the law firm of Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca and Fischer in the late 1990s. The system used DVD discs that allowed users to watch a film within a 48-hour window, with the ability to convert it into an unlimited viewing period afterward. The format was discontinued in 1999.
DIVX was an attempt by Circuit City and Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca and Fischer to create an alternative video rental market, which in the 1990s was dominated by Blockbuster Video. DIVX was launched in 1998. Players, made by manufacturers such as Zenith, RCA and Panasonic, were sold in Circuit City, Good Guys, Future Shop and Ultimate Electronics stores.
The concept used the emerging format of DVD. DIVX discs would be purchased for $4 and viewers would be able to watch them within a 48-hour window. DIVX-equipped players would authenticate with a user account via a modem. After the period was over, viewers could discard the disc, purchase another 48-hour viewing period or upgrade the disc to a “DIVX Silver” disc with an unlimited viewing period for a one-time fee. While DIVX players could play standard DVDs, DIVX discs lacked the special features of DVDs and were typically only in pan-and-scan. DIVX discs used Triple DES encryption for copy protection.
Due to low sales, DIVX was discontinued in 1999, with DIVX discs remaining playable until the central account access was disabled in 2001. Although DIVX was a failure, the concept of renting videos in a viewing window survives in modern video-on-demand systems such as those from Apple and Amazon.